(being continued from  05/10/11 )


Michigan’s Controversial Tablets Go Home To Michigan
From Ancient American Issue Number 49

Early in the 1980. Milton R, Hunter, a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, was successful in
acquiring a large collection of unusual artifacts gathered by Father Savage, a catholic priest from
Detroit, Michigan. First discovered during 1858, they continued to be found until the early 20th
Century in over 27 counties throughout the state of Michigan.
By 1900 the plates/tablets were at the center of one of the hottest debates over artifactual
authenticity in the history of Michigan archaeology. Father Savage and, later, Michigan state
senator, Daniel Soper, gathered these questionable tablets of stone, clay and copper from mostly
farmers who found the objects on their property. Their combined efforts came to be known as the
“Soper/Savage Tablets”, and/or the “Michigan Plates.”
With Father Savage’s death in the late 1930s, all the items were packed up and sent to
University of Notre Dame, In South Bend, Indiana, where they were placed In storage. There the
collection remained out of sight until two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints met with Father Charles F. Sheedy, caretaker of the collection. After several visits
with the priest, he suggested that the artifacts might have something to do with the Book of
Mormon in the LDS faith.
The two missionaries contacted Milton H. Hunter, then serving as a member of the Quorum
of Seventy in the LDS church, and told him about the collection. Hunter. a collector himself with
a Ph.D. In history, contacted Fathcr Sheedy, and was eventually able to acquirc the entire Savage
collection for the cost of shipment from Indiana. While on their way to Utah, Hunter learned that
Daniel Soper’s son, Ellis, wanted to donate his father’s artifacts to Notre Dame’s collection of
Michigan tablets. In the elder Soper’s own words,
“I have personal knowledge of more than 3,000 articles that have been found, and if they are
fakes and were buried to be found, whoever buried them has been a very busy person, because
they have been found throughout the state by hundreds of different people.
“The objects recovered from the mounds are, variously, of copper, sandstone, limestone, burned
clay and slate. The copper appears to be true mass-lake copper. Of the slates, the grayish black
variety predominates, this being of the quality which outcrops near Baraga, in northern
Michigan. The sandstone Is of fine texture now quarried at Amhurst, Ohio. Red and green slate
limestone appear, these being of an argillaceous character and having a good polish.”
Soper’s objects joined the Father Savage collection. These Items were not the
property of The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. but Huntcr’s own personal properties. He
photographed each object, then began an intensive study of all the artifacts. His findings were
described in an unpublished manuscript that accompanied the collection to the LBS museum. I
have obtained excerpts from this document, in which which Hunter concluded:
‘The evidence clearly shows that an ancient race of Mound Builders lived in the state of
Michigan and were exterminated, perhaps by the Indians. it seems likely that for many years
during their history they dotted the entire state with their towns and cities, and left thousands and
thousands of mounds as mute evidence of their ancient past.
These Mound Builders attained a rather high state of culture. They had a written
language which they inscribed on metal plates and stone tablets. Those tablets thoroughly
demonstrate the fact that these ancient Americans possessed Egyptian culture and the Hebrew
Such honorable men as Catholic priests and others of high character were the excavators
of the mounds. They bore testimony continuously in newspaper accounts and in books to the
antiquity of the Mound Builders and to the genuineness of their records. They knew the soil that
composed the mounds was virgin soil, having not been disturbed for hundreds of years. One
irrefutable evidence to this effect was that the large trees — many of them hundreds of years old –
— were growing upon the mounds when these men dug into them, and found the ancient relics.”

In a letter he wrote to Soper’s son, Ellis, Hunter observed:
…Also, the fact that many people have proclaimed that both Father Savages and your father’s
collections are frauds or forgeries makes your and my problem much more complicated.
As you know, I, personally, however, feel that the artifacts are all genuine.”
Letter to Mc Ellis Clarke Soper, Consulting Engineer. Franklin, North Carolina. dated
January 20, 1965. WrItten by Milton R. Hunter). [THIS LAND:
Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation, E.Goble & W May, pages 45 & 46)
Dr. Hunter took these pixnographs of the collection he “willed” to the Museum of Church
History and Art, in Salt Lake City. Utah, where it was warehoused until recently. Last fall,
museum directors negotiated its return to the State of Michigan. According to Dr. John Halsey,
curator for the controversial items, they will be placed on display in the near future at the Lansing
Museum of History.
While mainstream scholars insist that the Michigan tablets constitute a hoax, independent
investigators believe they are authentically prehistoric. In view of this on-going controversy, how
the artifacts will be presented when finally put on display should be of particular interest .

( From Ancient American Issue Number 53 )

From a scientific point of view, the history of the ancient Inhabitants of the North American
continent is veiled In mystery. There have been discoveries that reveal a long and what must be
an interesting past for our country, but yet relatively little is known, and much is yet to be
The physical remains of numerous people are evident in many places; their cities, their
fortifications, and their religious structures are scattered over a large part of what is now the
United States, The size arid extent of their ruins serve as witnesses to the greatness of their
numbers and to their advanced skill. The antiquity of their remains remind us that we are but
newcomers to this land; that we only recently, built in places that many before us have called
their home.
Mound Builders
Ancient American mounds were first observed by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s.
Marquette and Jollet explored the northern mound country in 1673, at that time it was empty, the
mounds appeared as natural formations, the area was depopulated. Missionaries of the mid-l700s
mentioned the mounds in their journals. arid travelers of the day reported their existence. When the
area became British territory after the 1756 war with France, settlers began to move westward
(Valley of the Ohio), this was the beginning of the real Interest in the mounds.
There were many people who became interested in the mounds, among the early notables were
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
In these early years after the discovery that a cultured people had anciently inhabited this
land, it became popular to theorize as to who these people were. ft was finally proposed that they
were a race distinct from the ancestors of the Indians. As J.D. Baldwin said in 1871;
An ancient arid unknown people left remains of settled life, arid of a certain degree of
civilization, in the valleys of the Mississippi and its tributaries. We have no authentic name for
them either as a nation or a race; therefore they are called ‘Mound-Builders’, this name having
been suggested by an important class of their works. (Ancient America, pp. 14-16.)
The Mound Builders were thought of as white, cultured, and not the ancestors of the
Indians who were found living in the same area. Today. there have been identified two overlapping
mound building traditions among the ancient peoples. One is currently thought to be the
ancestors of present day Indians. These ancient people have-been called the Adena and Hopewell
cultures. It is said that they did not possess skills higher than the Indians, and that at some time In  the past they must have lived a settled way of life. It would riot have been possible for a nomadic,
food gathering, or a hunting people to gather in sufficient numbers for periods of time long
enough to accomplish the great works of the Mound Builders.
Whoever the ancient people were, they have left us sonic truly puzzling remains. The
number of earth-works, when considered with their size and the area of the country they cover.
becomes evidence of a great achievement. The various purposes for which (hey were apparently
constructed indicate a complex people who had various societal roles, dominant among them was
an apparent military necessity.
E.G. Squire and E. H.. Davis performed the first systematic study of the ancient earthworks.
and in 1847 they published a descriptive work in Volume I of the Smithsonian Contributions to
Knowledge. Their book was titled Ancient Monuments of The Mississippi Valley.
Concerning the extent of the earthworks. they said: These remains are spread over a vast
extent of country. They are found on the sources of the Allegheny. iii the western part of the State
of New-York, on the east; and extend thence westward along the southern shore of Lake Erie, and
through Michigan arid Wisconsin, to Iowa and the Nebraska territory, on the west Lewis and
Clark saw them on the Missouri river, one thousand-miles above its junction with the Mississippi;
arid they have been observed on the Kansas and Platte, arid on other remote western rivers. They
arc found all over the Intermediate country, and spread over the valley of the Mississippi to the
Gulf of Mexico, They line the shores of the Gulf from Texas to Florida, and extend in diminished
numbers, into South Carolina. They occur in great numbers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin,
Missouri, Arkansas. Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. Florida,
and Texas. They are found, in less numbers, in the western portions of New York. Pennsylvania,
Virgirna, and North and South Carolina: as also in Michigan. Iowa, and in the Mexican territory
beyond the Rio Graride del Norte. in short, they occupy the entire basin of the Mississippi and its
tributaries, as also the fertile plains along the Gulf.’ (Ancient Monuments, pp. 1-2.)
Since the mounds cover such an extensive territory, we would expect that there would be
a very large number of them in total, this is true, although no one knows for sure what kind of a
number that would correctly he. Baldwin indicates what they are estimated to number in an area
where they are more common: About 100 enclosures and 500 mounds have been examined in
Ross County, Ohio. The number of mounds in the whole state is estimated at over 10.000, and the
number of enclosures at more than 1500. The great number of these ancient remains in the
regions occupied by the Mound-Builders is really surprising. They are more numerous in the
regions on the lower Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico than anywhere else; (Ancient America.p. 24.)

Relative to the size of the mounds, Squire and Davis have said:
“The mounds are of all dimensions, from those of but a few feet in height and a few yards in
diameter, to those which, like the celebrated structure at the mouth of Grave Creek in Virginia,
rise to the height of seventy feet, and measure one thousand feet in circumference at the base. The
great mound in the vicinity of Miamisburgh, Montgomery county, Ohio. is sixty-eight feet in
perpendicular height, and eight hundred and fifty-two in circumference at the base, containing
311,353 cubic feet.
The truncated pyramid at Cahokia, Illinois, has an altitude of ninety feet, and is upwards
of two thousand feet in circumference at the base, It has a level summit of several acres area. The
great mound at Selserstown, Mississippi, is computed to cover six acres of ground. Mounds of
these extraordinary dimensions are most common at the south, though there are some of great size
at the north, The usual dimensions are, however, considerably less than in the examples here
given. The greater number range from six to thirty feet in perpendicular height, by forty to one
hundred feet diameter at the base.” (Ancient Monuments, p. 5.)
It appears from this, that the people who were responsible for the mounds were numerous  as well as industrious. In addition to a large population, they possessed other elements of civilized
life Including cities, cities that could be supported only upon the principle of division of labor.

Baldwin notes evidence of such walled cities:
“At Newark, Ohio, when first discovered they were spread over an area more than two miles
square, and still showed more than twelve miles of embankment from two to twenty feet high.
Farther south, as already stated, the enclosures are fewer and smaller, or, to speak more exactly,
the great enclosures and high mounds are much less common than low truncated pyramids, and
pyramidal platforms or foundations with dependent works. Passing up the valley, it is found that
Marietta, Newark, Portsmouth, Chillicothe, Circleville, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri and Frankfort,
Kentucky, were favorite seats of the Mound-Builders. This leads one of the most intelligent
investigators to remark that the centers of population are now where they were when the
mysterious race of Mound-Builders existed. There is. however, this difference: the remains
indicate that their most populous and advanced communities were at the South. (Ancient America,
pp. 29-30.)
In addition to city dwelling as a way of life, they may have had some form of central
government. The earth-works represent enough similarity of thought as to accord to them a
common culture. They may have had common enemies, for their fortifications are not only
similar in design, but as some have noted, they form a cordon of defensive works across their
territory. Squire and Davis, in their study of the fortifications, come to the conclusion that there
existed a:
System of Defenses extending from the sources of the Allegheny and Susquehanna in New York,
diagonally across the country, through central and northern Ohio, to the Wabash. (Ancient
Monuments, p. 44.)
Concerning this line of fortifications Charles Whittlesey said:
That they formed a well occupied line, constructed either to protect the advance of a
nation landing from the lake (Lake Erie) and moving southward for conquest; or, a line of
resistance for a people inhabiting these shores and pressed upon by their southern neighbors.
(Quoted in R. Silverberg, Mound Builders of Ancient America, p. 116.)
Each of these elements indicate civilization, skill, and cooperation among a large group of people.
Squire and Davis sum this point up with this conclusion:
• … there is almost positive evidence that the Mound-Builders were an agricultural people,
considerably advanced in the arts, possessing a great uniformity throughout the whole territory
which they occupied, in manners, habits, and having a common origin, common modes of life,
and, as an almost necessary consequence. Common sympathies, if not a common and
consolidated government. (Ancient Monuments, p. 45.) Observers were quick to point out that
the Indians did not possess these particular qualities of civilized life. They also felt that Indian
legends about an ancient white race of people referred to the Mound Builders. There is much
by way of tradition that would indicate that the Indians are not the descendants of the mound
building peoples. As Baldwin says: Moreover, the traditional lore of the wild Indians had
nothing to say of the Mound-Builders, who appear to have been as unknown and mysteri ous to
these Indians as they are to US. (Ancient America, p. 58.)


Compiled by Glen W. Chapman- September 2000


About sooteris kyritsis

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